Avoid the Drama: Here’s How!
Today, I’ll share some of my best office politics tips when you’re teaching English at a Korean University. The amount of office politics you have to deal is really dependent on 3 factors: your office, housing, and classroom situation.
How much Contact Do you Have with your Coworkers? Drama is Directly Proportional to This
At my previous university there was a fair bit of drama because most of us lived together in the same building, had offices all in the same hallway and classrooms next to each other. We also lived in the countryside and so ended up being friends with each other and spending time together outside of work, generally because it wasn’t really easy to meet other people. This meant that you saw a lot of your coworkers and sometimes more than you actually wanted (for certain people).
My Current Situation: Ideal!
At my current university, we have three campuses so I never see some people. Like never, except at the meeting at the beginning of the semester. We share offices with a couple other people, but again, it’s kind of rare to actually see a coworker in the office. Our classrooms are spread out around the campuses so it’s unusual to just run into people randomly.
We live in a big city so everyone has their own friend groups, which most often don’t consist of coworkers. And, there is no university provided housing. I literally live on the entire opposite end of the city from some of my coworkers. Because of these factors, drama is non-existent, which I love.
What you Need to Know about Working Life in Korea
How to avoid the drama? My top office politics tips for Korean Unis:
(Tips for everyone on having a generally fabulous time living in South Korea: How to Thrive in South Korea: 97 Tips from Expats).
Don’t gossip about other people!
NEVER speak badly about one of your coworkers. Assume it will always get back to that person. Not that trusting no one is a good way to live, but at work…it’s not such as terrible idea, especially when you’re new and don’t really know what the established relationships are. Looks are sometimes deceiving.
Make friends outside of work
If you’re having a hard time at work, vent to them and not a coworker. You’ll also be unable to talk about common coworkers, which is usually bad news and doesn’t do good things for your mental health. Your friend is also way more likely to be impartial and give you some solid advice about whatever problem you’re having than someone else on the inside.
Take the housing allowance
Live away from your coworkers, if possible. I’d take housing allowance over provided housing for sure, and I actually wish that I’d organized my own housing years ago. It was far easier than I thought it would be.
Tune it out
Use the giant headphones if you have a shared office because they give off the vibe that you’re doing work and not available for gossip and drama. Preferably, find another place to work such as a coffee shop or at home and avoid the cattle pen altogether.
Be friendly, but not too friendly
Attend all social activities and make an effort to actually get to know your coworkers, on a friendly, but not BFF level. That said, I have made many good, life-long friends working at Korean universities but the key is to be cautious at first. Give it a few months and a few interactions to see if they’re someone who can be trusted not to share your inside information with everyone else on staff.
What’s your Top Tip?
How do you stay out of the drama when teaching in a Korean university? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.